When people write to us about their problems, we often recommend consultation with a mental health professional. We can answer questions online and give some suggestions. However, we can’t diagnose or treat people without meeting them. So, we refer our readers to other sources of help.

However, far too many people tell us that they don’t have health insurance, mental health coverage, or the money for co-pays. Sadly, that is the reality today. We expect in the next few years that mental health coverage will become part of all health insurance plans.Here are a few thoughts. If you can’t afford therapy, check with the local university psychology or psychiatry department. Sometimes you can get free or very inexpensive help from a clinic. The medical or graduate students who work with you are supervised by a licensed professional. In addition, community mental health centers usually have sliding scales or reduced fees for people who cannot afford treatment.

If those options are impossible check with the local United Way for a list of support groups in your community. NAMI is an international organization that offers support and educational programs for people suffering from emotional disorders and their families. You can also find online support groups on the internet. Support groups can be extremely helpful, especially when the focus is on getting better.

Get more information. Go to reliable web sites such as psychcentral, webmd, the Mayo Clinic, American Psychological Association or American Psychiatric Association. Stay away from programs that offer quick fixes or easy cures. Check out self-help books from your public library or buy used copies (usually a few dollars plus shipping). These resources may not cure you but can get you started.

We are extremely sympathetic to your plight if finances are restricting your access to mental health care. However, we also strongly urge you to persist in your efforts to get as much help as you can. In other words, don’t allow finances to put you into a hopeless and helpless state of mind. Realize that mental health problems not only cause psychic pain, but also often lead to costly problems with physical health as well. Take care.